19 December 2012

Zimbabwe: Zanu-PF's Gweru Hall Illegal?

CONFUSION surrounds the legality of the multi-million dollar conference centre in Gweru where ZANU-PF held its just-ended annual people's conference, The Financial Gazette can reveal.

While the city fathers in the Midlands' provincial capital insist that the structure, being built at a cost of US$6,5 million is illegal as there was no approval for change of land use, ZANU-PF officials associated with the project say every step was taken to comply with the country's laws.

Despite previous claims that the hall is owned by ZANU-PF, latest information shows that the property is in fact registered in the name of a company owned by a consortium of businessmen aligned to the party.

Reports also suggest that the land on which the hall was built was seized in February this year from a local identified only as Muparutsa, seven years after it had been acquired by the government from a white farmer.

This week, Gweru deputy mayor Taurai Demo, said the structure was illegal in the sense that an application for change of land use should have been sought with the municipality before the construction of the conference centre.

Demo said had the application been lodged with council, the city fathers would have advertised for any objections before reaching a decision for approval.

"They should have applied for change of land use. We call for objections and council decides to approve or not to approve. This is not a political statement, I am not fighting anyone, I am merely stating the facts," he said.

But Midlands Development Association (MDA) vice chairperson, Larry Mavima, says due process was followed in acquiring the land and constructing the hall.

"The government acquired the land through the Land Acquisition Act six, seven years ago. It was gazetted; early this year we applied as Midlands Development Association (for the land). It was disused, derelict," said Mavima, who is also the ZANU-PF deputy provincial chairperson.

"Muparutsa never owned that land. When he was asked to produce title deeds, he failed. No one was staying there, but there was a private bar, which was being operated by white people who were staying there."

Mavima however, confirmed that the conference centre was not owned by ZANU-PF but by a number of investors housed under the MDA, some of whom had links to ZANU-PF.

Mavima, the chairperson of the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Parastatals, said anyone was welcome to join MDA for as long as they had the development of the province at heart.

"The conference does not belong to the party. We happen to be associated with the party. The party does not own the asset, but we are a child of the party," he said.

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